Hobbyists return to car restoration projects during the pandemic

  The 1969 Volkswagen dune buggy had been abandoned on a beach before Dibble purchased it last summer. Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards. With time to spare and nowhere to go during lockdown, many classic-car owners have seized the opportunity to finally make progress on a restoration project – or two. Rob Dibble saw the overabundance of time at home as an opportunity to pursue his passion for car restoration. The corporate development entrepreneur has been working remotely in Charlotte, North Carolina, and his flexible schedule allowed him to focus on the restoration of his 1969 Volkswagen dune buggy. “I wanted to do something more productive than binging TV shows,” Dibble said. He purchased the classic open-air vehicle in August of last year but has not had the opportunity to work on it until recent stay-at-home orders freed up much of his time. “I’ve re-discovered my love for restoration over the past few months.” The buggy is not Dibble’s first restoration project. He has restored three motorcycles and two former ambulances that he converted into tailgating buses. However, the Dune Buggy is his first vintage vehicle. “The car had been abandoned on a beach. It was totally rusted and in bad shape,” he said. Over the course of three months, Dibble installed a new carburetor, exhaust system, wheels, brakes and headlights. He also made changes to the interior, including new seats, a new dashboard with a GPS speedometer, new carpeting and a new stereo. He also re-painted the exterior, transforming it from all-yellow to a flat grey with a light-yellow racing stripe. When Dibble encounters a mechanical challenge, he spends time “tinkering” to see if he can solve the issue. “That’s the most fun part for me. I love trying out different solutions and seeing what I can figure out for myself,” he says. If Dibble needs additional support, he turns to the online community of Volkswagen enthusiasts. “They’ve been so welcoming. They help work through any challenges you have in the restoration process, send vehicle parts that you may not be able to find, and share their own projects,” he said. “I never knew there was this presence of Volkswagen fans [in Charlotte]. It’s been nice to see the community supporting each other.” Dibble is continuing to make progress and refine his restoration skills while working remotely. Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards. Dibble has enjoyed seeing the creative ways others have solved for mechanical problems. “Everyone is concerned about money right now, which makes it difficult to purchase expensive car parts or get restoration work done for them,” he said. “Because of the pandemic, people are taking on the work themselves and being resourceful. For me, it’s been one way to have fun and focus on something I love.” For Jamie Orr, car restoration is more than just a hobby. Based in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Orr works with Volkswagen and travels around the world to restore and write about Volkswagens. “I was working on three concept cars when the stay-at-home orders started,” Orr said. “I was scheduled to travel around Europe for auto shows in a few weeks. It was really disappointing not to see these projects come to life.” But the stay-at-home orders which paused his scheduled travel with Volkswagen allowed him to pursue several personal projects. His first is a 1974 Volkswagen Golf that he found in the Nevada desert almost a decade ago. “I’ve been able to do more work on the car in the past eight weeks than I have in the past eight years,” Orr said. Orr has 19 Volkswagens in his garage for personal projects, so his restoration to-do list won’t be completed anytime soon. Next up is a 1984 Volkswagen Golf GTI which he plans to restore on-camera non-stop. “I’m going to set up a webcam and am not going to leave my workshop until the car is ready to drive out,” he explained. “That’s one challenge I’m really looking forward to.” Orr has also seen his social media following grow as more and more people take up car restoration projects with their extra time. “We are all finding solace and a healthy distraction through car restoration,” he says. “And the great thing is that you can do it while social distancing and supporting the suppliers and recyclers that provide the car parts.” While anxious to get back to his travel and projects with Volkswagen, Orr sees this increased love for car restoration as a silver lining during this difficult time. “This is something people may have brushed to the side for years. Now, we are all making space in our lives for hobbies again. Especially now, it’s important to find the little things that make us happy,” he said. 1

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#TBT: The Volkswagen “Max” Beetle

 In 2008, Volkswagen of America began looking for a unique spokesperson—someone who could eloquently embody the brand’s ideals, but at the same time remind us that Volkswagen is a company that knows how to have a little fun, too. Identifying just the right person presented a long road ahead; it became clear that not just any celebrity superstar would do. With the help of advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the unforgettable black 1964 Beetle we simply know as “Max” was fast-tracked to primetime. Though he wasn’t human, Max was unquestionably iconic, and instantly shone as a spokesperson. The lovable icon spoke English but with a polite German accent as he interviewed celebrities of the day that included Heidi Klum, Leonard Nimoy, David Hasselhoff, and basketball coach Bobby Knight. His schedule stayed fully booked, with appearances at car shows and vehicle launches nationwide filling out the days between ad shoots. But how could Max be in so many places at once? Simple – there were five of him. In an incredibly short timeframe, prime candidates were located, purchased, identically restored, and delivered to the public stage. State of Mind Customs in Oxford, MI handled the restoration process, completing the first three Beetles in just 30 days. Spearheading a team of 20 through the work, owner John Bickel stresses the feat would never have been possible without the strong cohesion and enthusiasm between all involved parties and Volkswagen itself. The 1964 Beetle might be the most iconic representation of the car’s incredible 30-year long run. This model year brought myriad updates that included a metal sunroof, larger front turn signals, a larger license plate light, and four new colors: Panama Beige, Java Green, Bahama Blue, and Sea Blue. Inside the 1964 Beetle, the horn featured two buttons in lieu of the earlier car’s half ring design and basketweave vinyl seats provided some aeration compared with the solid vinyl of the previous car. Pricing in 1964 ranged from $1,595 for the DeLuxe Sedan to $1,685 for the DeLuxe Sunroof, both of which had a 1,192 cc OHV horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, making 40 hp at 3,900 rpm and 65 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm. Weighing in at just 1,675 lbs, there was easily enough power to motivate the Beetle, which was able to net an impressive 31.5 mpg at the same time. The 4-speed manual transmission helped the little people mover reach a top speed of 72 mph. Initially, the five restored Beetles were to be static displays, but State of Mind was able to complete frame-on restorations with rebuilt engines and transmissions by deadline. And so, down to the single-stage paint (that is, no clearcoat), each Beetle is a period reflection of the way it would have rolled off the production line in 1964. Restored with a combination of Volkswagen and reproduction parts, the Max Beetles are indistinguishable from one another, minus the license plates. Max 1 lives at Volkswagen of America’s Herndon, Virginia headquarters. With a few pumps of the gas pedal and a twist of the key, Max 1 springs right to life. Vent windows served as the day’s air conditioning, swiveling open easily with a push of the hand, while the side glass comes down via crank. An unexpectedly precise shifter clicks delicately into gear only at the very top of each long throw. Even before turning a wheel in motion, the feeling of being somewhere special is overwhelming. When whistling down the road, the specialness is shared with the many onlookers offering waves, honks, smiles, and thumbs-ups. The sprung seats do their part in absorbing bumps and ruts in the road as much as the suspension itself does, even as they unknowingly handle the job of adding a 1960’s tint to the experience. Any 1964 Beetle is an icon; this one is a celebrity. of  

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Volkswagen and The Conservation Fund award $200,000 in grants to environmental organizations

Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund announce community grant winners In November, Volkswagen reinforced its corporate commitment to sustainability by establishing a $200,000 community grant program toward conservation efforts in eastern Tennessee in partnership with The Conservation Fund. After soliciting grant requests of up to $50,000 from local nonprofits, schools and public agencies, the company is pleased to announce the five charitable organizations that were selected for sponsorship. The funds will be used toward promoting environmental education for local youth, enhancing local watershed quality, and improving access to public lands for recreational use in Eastern Tennessee where the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant is located, and thousands of Volkswagen employees reside. The grant recipients include: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, for the expansion of a successful pilot program that provides a pathway of environmental learning, recreation, and leadership experiences for underserved Knoxville youth; WaterWays, for the development of an environmental educational program—including outdoor classroom and interpretive nature trail—for local K-12 students; National Forest Foundation, for a program that brings youth from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma to their ancestral homelands in the Cherokee National Forest for several weeks of learning, service, and exploration; Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, for river cleanups with volunteers that raise awareness for conservation of waterways and showcase the vastness of the Cherokee National Forest spanning from Watauga Lake to the Ocoee River, and; Partners of Cherokee National Forest, for a refresh of a popular regional outdoor recreation map that shows access locations to all federal and state public land near the Cherokee National Forest. The initiative is part of a broader of a $1.25 million company commitment to help protect and restore forestland across America, starting with Tennessee. The remaining funds will be used by the Fund to buy, conserve, and donate approximately 1,500 acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Cherokee National Forest. The goal is for the additional lands, which are located near the assembly plant, to be open to the public for outdoor recreation use and to help protect the habitats of local animal populations, including the black bear and the endangered Indiana bat. “We applaud these exemplary organizations for their expanded efforts to maintain and enhance access to the Cherokee National Forest’s many recreational, educational and inspiring offerings,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “We are honored to support their efforts and are grateful for Volkswagen’s commitment to help protect the environment and support the communities in which they work.”

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#TBT: The ultimate beach cruiser: The 1974 Volkswagen Acapulco Thing

The Volkswagen Type 181 – commonly referred to as “The Thing” – has always been a fun summer classic for drivers who enjoy a cool and wildly original type of ride. The removable doors, retractable soft top and folding windshield provided a driving experience unlike any other Volkswagen. The 181 has also spawned one of the more unusual models ever to wear the Volkswagen badge – the Acapulco Thing. The Thing variant was specifically designed for two legendary, high-end resorts in Acapulco, a popular resort city in Mexico and destination du jour for Hollywood A-list celebrities in the 1960s and 1970s. As the Thing was assembled in Puebla, Mexico, the oceanfront hotels used the boxy beach cruiser to shuttle wealthy vacationers from the airport and the city’s sun-kissed shoreline. The Acapulco Thing’s popularity among the hotel’s ritzy, jet-setting clientele led Volkswagen to produce a limited run of the resort cruiser – about 400 cars in total – from May to July of 1974. Most of the Acapulco things were painted Blizzard White with blue accents on the rocker panels, running boards, bumpers and dashboard, although Volkswagen also made versions with orange, red and yellow base colors. The car had removable side curtains on all four of its doors, and its seats were upholstered with blue nautical stripes, adding to its coastal look. The Thing’s regular soft top could also be replaced by a seat-matching vinyl surrey top on a special high-profile tubular frame. Available accessory options for the car at the time of purchase included a welded steel roll cage, a detachable fiberglass hardtop (with luggage rack), an outside spare tire carrier, a front bumper push bar, electric winch, a radio, front and rear trailer hitches, chrome sport wheels and under-dash air conditioning. Like its Thing siblings, the car was powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled 1.6-liter flat-four engine, paired to a four-speed manual transmission. Over time, the Acapulco Thing has become both a collector item and template for Thing restoration; a true, verifiable Thing in decent condition can be hard to come by and could typically fetch well north of $10,000. But as the ID. BUGGY concept demonstrates, there is plenty of potential for new, unique, and exciting open-air driving experiences in Volkswagen’s future.

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Team Volkswagen kicks off Drive Bigger program to get charities back on the field

As the world works toward a new normal in the COVID-19 era, sports like soccer have had to adapt and try new approaches. With teams and players slowly returning to the field, the demands on soccer-related charities remain high, with programs delayed or cancelled and needs greater than ever. To help address those challenges, Volkswagen of America has worked with U.S. Soccer Men’s and Women’s National Team players who serve as brand ambassadors on Team Volkswagen. These ten ambassadors have chosen nine charities from across the country to support with a contribution from Volkswagen, to aid their communities and help support the sport in America. “Volkswagen welcomes our teammates from the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, and we’re thrilled to donate to organizations that our athletes are passionate about,” said Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice president, sales and marketing at Volkswagen of America. “Building the game at the grassroots level while giving back to our communities is the essence of what we mean by Drive Bigger.” “As a brand that has made strides to support the growth of soccer in the United States and empower and encourage young girls and women to pursue their dreams, I could not be more proud to partner with a brand that aligns with my fundamental values,” said Carli Lloyd, U.S. Women’s National Team co-captain, two-time FIFA World Cup Champion and two-time FIFA Player of the Year. From left to right: Jordan Morris, Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn, Gyazi Zardes, Abby Dahlkemper Tyler Adams (MNT), Crystal Dunn (WNT), America SCORES: America SCORES works in schools across the country using soccer as an outlet to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and build confidence for a better future. “America SCORES is dedicated to making sure our 12,000 poet-athletes across the nation feel safe, secure and connected during this unprecedented time,” said Bethany Henderson, President, America SCORES National Network. The aid “will go a long way toward helping make sure we’re taking care of the kids who need it most, at a time when they need us most.” “I’m excited to partner with an organization like VW that is committed to growing soccer in the U.S.,” said Adams, “and allows its ambassadors to help charitable causes focused on sport, like America SCORES.” Abby Dahlkemper (WNT), Grassroot Soccer: This New Hampshire-based group leverages the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize youth to overcome their greatest health challenges, and be agents for change in their communities. Dahlkemper has worked with Grassroot Soccer since 2019, helping raise money to support more than 850 youths with critical health education and access to health services. Ali Krieger (WNT), Women and Girls in Soccer (WAGS): This Washington, the D.C-based group seeks to empower women and girls from all over the world through soccer to realize their full potential, supports six unique programs that promote confidence, strength, character and leadership in a variety of ways. Krieger is an alumnus of WAGS from when the organization operated as a girl’s youth soccer league. Her team, Prince William Sparklers, coached by her father Ken Krieger, won multiple league championships during her youth soccer career. Carli Lloyd (WNT), The Women’s Sports Foundation: The goal of the WSF is to ensure that every girl and woman can unlock her potential through the benefit of sports and physical activity. It supports girls’ and women’s soccer dreams via community programs, travel and training funding, and advocacy for gender equity at the professional level. Lloyd has a long history with the group, taking part in many WSF initiatives such as #WeKeepPlaying, a digital conversation to discuss resilience and mental health for young athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s an amazing group of people who aim to increase female athletic participation and teach the benefits of sport to create a long-lasting impact beyond the playing field,” she said. From left to right: Tyler Adams, Samantha Mewis, Carli Lloyd, Kelley O’Hara, Weston McKennie Samantha Mewis (WNT), Hidden Gems: Mewis has been working for two years with Hidden Gems, a Chicago-based organization that connects girls who play soccer in low-income areas with professional athletes. The goal is to use the power of teamwork and soccer as an equalizer to increase young girls’ perceptions of their ability on and off the field. Weston McKennie (MNT), The Steve Nash Foundation: The foundation works to increase access to critical needs health and education resources for underserved children. McKennie has played in the foundation’s annual soccer Showdown and SNF Charity Shield soccer tournament, which raises money for SNF’s community programs and services for kids. “We’re so appreciative of VW’s support, and of Wes’ recognition of our work for kids,” said Steve Nash. “As a young athlete, for him to show so much awareness, empathy and dedication to improving conditions in our communities lend a lot of hope for the growth and long tradition of athletes compelling social change.” Jordan Morris (MNT), The Jordan Morris Foundation. Morris was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was nine years old. A two-time MLS Cup Championship and Gold Cup player, Morris uses soccer to educate, inspire, and support the lives of children with T1D. “Through soccer, we inspire kids with T1D to not let anything hold them back from accomplishing their goals,” he said. Kelley O’Hara (WNT), The Kelley O’Hara Scholarship Fund. The fund was created by Kelley’s youth club, AFC Lightning in Peachtree City, Ga., in honor of winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The scholarship fund aims to support two female players at the club to ease the financial constraints of playing at the collegiate level. “Kelley is a great role model and with Volkswagen’s help, she’s able to give back to the community and youth soccer club that shaped her dreams of becoming a USWNT player,” said Steve Muccillo AFC Lightning Executive Director. “We’re very grateful to Kelley and Volkswagen for helping our current players chase their dreams too.” Gyasi Zardes (MNT), The Columbus Crew SC Foundation: The Crew SC Foundation has long focused on improving the lives of youth in their community through Soccer. One program is Soccer for Success, a free after-school program dedicated to helping children establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through caring coach-mentors and family engagement.

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Volkswagen dealers across the nation participate in Community-Driven Atlas Initiative

Volkswagen and its network of dealerships are supporting local communities during COVID-19 through the Community-Driven Atlas Initiative, a program that allows dealerships the ability to re-purpose their service loaner vehicles for community service endeavors like delivering food, masks and other essential goods to individuals in need. “We have been involved with a number of organizations in our communities for years now,” said Kristen Walker, marketing director for Coastal Volkswagen. “But we’ve seen the increased demand on services and the complications in delivering these services to residents in the last few months. We appreciate the opportunity to take advantage of the Volkswagen programs because it has allowed us to be useful in ways we might not have been able to before.” Since April, many dealers across the U.S. have participated in the program and are helping their local communities in unique and inspiring ways. Some are delivering community meals, while others are providing commuter transportation, but in the end, all are choosing to “Drive Bigger” and help out their neighbors during this critical time of need. Check out just a few of the ways Volkswagen dealers are stepping up for their community: Coastal Volkswagen: Located in Hanover, Mass., Coastal Volkswagen deployed its fleet of Volkswagen Atlas vehicles to several nonprofits in their area including Wellspring Multiservice Center, a nonprofit that recently expanded its food pantry services to deliver food to families that rely on schools to provide their children with free or low-cost meals. “When it became clear that schools were going to stay closed, we knew we could help,” said Walker. Eager to assist, five employees from Coastal Volkswagen stepped up and volunteered to make deliveries for the organization and serve approximately 20 families each week. Cherry Hill Volkswagen’s Lou DiMattia and Amanda DiMattia in front of the Atlas on the day of deliveries. Cherry Hill Volkswagen: As part of the program, Cherry Hill Volkswagen donated and delivered 70 pizzas and 100 cheesesteaks to a local hospital in Camden, N.J., which fed 170 people in the medical center’s COVID response department. Thanks to the spacious interior of the Atlas, it was an easy process. “The car is so versatile,” said Amanda DiMattia, CEO of Cherry Hill Imports Auto Group. “The Atlas can handle a car full of people or a car full of food, in this case. It was awesome for this opportunity.” DiMattia was excited about the Drive Bigger campaign when it launched last year. While the last few months have put new pressures on everyone, it has also been an incredible opportunity to put the company’s ethos into practice. “We always want to do something more and that is what Drive Bigger is all about. I am excited to see us continue this momentum,” she said. Jack Daniels Volkswagen: Colleagues at Jack Daniels Volkswagen in Fair Lawn, N.J. were excited to give back to their local community. General Manager Don Chittum and Chief Operating Officer John Nunley used an Atlas to make two donation drops to essential workers this spring. “It was enlightening to see what everyone is doing during this time,” said Chittum. “Enlightening really is a great word for it. We are in a bubble at the dealership, so it was good to step away and see what people are going through. It was very eye-opening.” The Jack Daniels dealership team delivered weighted blankets, certificates for car cleaning and respirator masks to a local hospital. Chittum, Nunley and other volunteers were able to spend the day with the center’s nurses and doctors, who thanked them for the donations and shared their perspectives on the pandemic. Additionally, Jack Daniels Volkswagen delivered lunch to 140 police and correction officers at the local sheriff’s department. “Giving back to the community was a great feeling,” said Chittum. Jack Daniels Volkswagen’s General Manager Don Chittum and Chief Operating Officer John Nunley of Jack Daniels Volkswagen delivered blankets, masks, car cleaning certificates, and lunch to a local hospital and sheriff’s department.

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#TBT – Volkswagen Golf Country

Built in 1990, the Golf Country was an early foray into the crossover SUV category for Volkswagen and even predated the Toyota RAV4—one of the first mass-market CUVs—by four years. With just 7,735 vehicles produced in two years from 1990 to 1991, the rugged, off-road worthy Golf Mark 2 variant – with lifted suspension and all-wheel drive – is now a collectible modern classic. Volkswagen introduced the “Montana” concept at the Geneva Motor Show in 1989. At the time, the off-road Golf Mark 2 variant was exclusive to Europe. The crossover was never meant for production, but the surprising demand seen at dealerships drove Volkswagen to manufacture it. Pre-assembled, all-wheel-drive Golf Syncro vehicles were shipped from Germany to Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria—the same specialty manufacturer that built the Steyr Puch Haflinger and the original Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Using a largely tubular lower subframe, Steyr effectively lifted the four-wheel-drive Golf Syncro 4.72 inches, resulting in more than seven inches of ground clearance. In all, 438 unique parts were fitted to each Golf Syncro to earn it the Golf Country designation, including a revised suspension, front and rear bumper bars, a rear-mounted tire carrier, four additional auxiliary front lights and an underbody armor that protects its outboard constant-velocity joints. The 1990 model photographed has had a Thule roof rack and PIAA light bar fitted. While all this additional weight seems like it would overpower the Golf Country’s 1.8-liter 97-horsepower engine, it doesn’t feel like it from the driver’s seat. The gearing, slightly lower than that of the front-wheel-drive Mark 2 Golf, provided the four-cylinder with enough pep to get around without any drama. The Country model soaks up bumps and ruts in the road with ease. There is pronounced body roll in cornering that may catch modern Volkswagen drivers by surprise—the Country is a Golf that loves to lean in. Several special edition versions of the vehicle exist including “Chrome,” which featured chrome-trimmed, retrofitted tubular steel bumpers and wheels, along with a better-appointed interior. Only 558 Golf Country Chrome editions were produced, and they were sold at a premium over the already expensive utility vehicles. Rarer still is the “Wolfsburg Edition” which comes with the more powerful 16-valve GTI engine under the hood. Despite being legal to import one into the U.S., there are just a handful of Golf Country models that exist here in any trim. Overall, the drive experience of the Golf County is nothing if not charming 30 years later. of    

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